Your Three Feet of Influence

Sharon Salzberg

is a monthly columnist for On Being. She is a meditation teacher and the cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. She is the author of many books, including Love Your Enemies, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, and Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace. Her most recent work is Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection.

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July 14th, 2017

To make the world a better place is an intimidating challenge. But what if we focused on our immediate surroundings?

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May 31st, 2017

Love and gratitude can be daring, disruptive acts in a world that insists on conflict and endless craving.

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May 15th, 2017

A balm for burnout: self-love and a guided meditation to empower us to take a stand — literally — for our own right to be happy and whole.

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April 18th, 2017

Lovingkindness isn’t a sweet and soft thing. It’s a rigorous transformation of mind and spirit, and it’s the first step to cultivating a sense of connection to those around us.

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March 21st, 2017

A sense of mindfulness can help us recalibrate our reactions to those we judge as different or dangerous.

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February 13th, 2017

The stories we tell about love and life are the root of dreams and frustration, alike. Sharon Salzberg on how “unstitching and reweaving” the narratives we hold can lead to a more generous understanding of our relationships, and ourselves.

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January 10th, 2017

A pilgrimage of gratitude illuminates an essential connection between the private journeys we take in life and the messy path we all walk together.

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November 21st, 2016

Instead of denying frightening realities, sometimes the best path forward is a courageous acknowledgement of the truth.

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October 24th, 2016

Our lives are interwoven, even when the connections aren’t always apparent. A reflection on civic participation as a form of compassion to the loved ones and strangers we live alongside.

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September 20th, 2016

Unwavering gratitude can be an intimidating ideal. Sharon Salzberg examines gentle attention to the positive as a generous alternative to our negativity bias.

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August 15th, 2016

In an anxiety-fueled society, how can we muster the courage to deal head-on with negative emotions? Sharon Salzberg counsels wise action in the face of fear, and mettle in the face of hopelessness.

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July 11th, 2016

Independence is seen as a hallmark of success, but is it wise to deny our connection to one another? Sharon Salzberg on how unity and compassion can bolster individual strength.

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June 11th, 2016

In pop culture “coolness” is sometimes equated with nonchalance, isolation, and sarcasm. Sharon Salzberg asks us to rethink what it means to be “cool” and argues that kindness and empathy can be the “in” thing.

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May 28th, 2016

To devote oneself to battling injustice is noble, but rigorous. Sharon Salzberg celebrates the extraordinary work of agents of social change, and illuminates the importance of balancing exposure to hardship with self-care.

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May 3rd, 2016

One of our columnist’s most influential teachers passed away this spring. Sharon Salzberg with a reflection and an homage to “a man who completely walked the talk of his values.”

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April 9th, 2016

Life can be frustrating, and we often react with resistance, or overwhelm. Sharon Salzberg reminds us that emotional balance doesn’t come from denying feelings, but from allowing them room to play out fully.

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March 26th, 2016

Humility is a virtue, but denying ourselves the happiness we deserve can be a destructive habit. Sharon Salzberg with a reflection on the perils of self-deprecation, and how we might come to relish moments of joy, fully.

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March 20th, 2016

The value of doubt can be lost in a culture that puts us on a quest for certainty. Sharon Salzberg on the complex relationship between questioning and faith, and how they can lead to growth when put to skillful practice.

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March 13th, 2016

Working through discomfort doesn’t mean denying our suffering. Instead, Sharon Salzberg suggests a better way to move forward: allowing ourselves to feel pain without judgment, and accepting the validity of our own emotions.

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March 5th, 2016

There’s comfort in the ideal of perfection. But in this pursuit, we can trap ourselves in the striving. Sharon Salzberg on accepting imperfection as the unexpected path to spiritual fulfillment.

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February 27th, 2016

The lingering pain of a traumatic history can create a sense of helplessness. But, reflecting on her family’s suffering during the Holocaust, Sharon Salzberg realizes our redemptive agency in forming the path we take forward.

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February 20th, 2016

Recalling a trip to beautiful but war-scarred Zimbabwe, Sharon Salzberg reflects on the easy proliferation, and destructive potential, of negative thoughts.

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February 15th, 2016

Many of us feel cast off and and think we have to go it alone. But what if we took solace in the third refuge of the community? Sharon Salzberg with a video meditation on standing in line and counsel on how we might thrive in our connectedness with one another.

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February 9th, 2016

We often equate ruthless doubt with intelligent discernment. As Sharon Salzberg points out, sitting through the uncertainty can be the surest way to become present to the wisdom of our own intuition.

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January 23rd, 2016

It can be easy to fall into distorted channels of self-doubt and self-criticism. But, rather than trying to suppress those feelings, personal empowerment may come from acknowledging, relating, and directing them may lead to a more spacious life.

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January 16th, 2016

Though she’s the example many turn to for guidance on mindfulness practice, Sharon Salzberg didn’t always find meditation so easy. She reflects on an early retreat in India, and what it can teach us about letting go of ideals, and having faith in what is.

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January 11th, 2016

When we strip away various veneers, what are we left with? Sharon Salzberg on the practice of letting go of denial and the uncomfortability of avoidance.

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January 4th, 2016

Finding a clear sense of being home shouldn’t be sought from a desperate place. But, how is it possible to yearn without becoming lost in our deluded states of mind? Sharon Salzberg on the wise attention we possess that alchemizes delusion into wisdom.

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December 28th, 2015

The passage of time can seem like a dream. Sharon Salzberg looks back at enduring friendships and the journey “meditation” and “mindfulness” have taken these past 40 years in the U.S.

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December 21st, 2015

Recalling the harrowing experience of one of her students, Sharon Salzberg considers the Buddha’s teachings on practicing intentional lovingkindness, and its power to heal both from without and within.

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December 14th, 2015

Actions stem from deep roots within, but how much attention do we give this inner space? A reminder that while nothing can be accomplished without action, actions in turn are made by the intentions that fuel them.

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December 8th, 2015

Becoming fixated on a problem at the office or an injustice to others can often lead to intense anger. But, how do we avoid the narrowness of this emotion and not let it consume us?

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November 30th, 2015

There’s much confusion between sympathy and empathy. Our columnist tells the story of a wise elder whose suffering led her to become a model for how to have a meaningful life.

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November 23rd, 2015

What happens when our icons are turned to rubble? Would their meaning still hold? Drawing on the Hindu tradition of ishta devata, Sharon Salzberg contemplates the Paris attacks and the Syrian refugee crisis through her favorite icon, the Statue of Liberty.

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November 16th, 2015

The harmful cycle of guilt can devolve into cycles of self-hatred. Guiding words on the constructive work of remorse, which can be especially powerful when directed toward forgiving ourselves.

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November 9th, 2015

We are genetically inclined to look for possible negative outcomes. But, does this survival mechanism serve us well in our time? Some helpful insights on not judging ourselves too harshly and creating a new sense of spaciousness within.

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November 2nd, 2015

Too often, we confuse love with attachment. Sharon Salzberg on striking a balance between needing and a generosity of the heart — for ourselves, for all beings, for life itself.

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October 26th, 2015

To always be a beginner is frustrating to many of us. What if we embraced this as a choice rather than a deficiency? Sharon Salzberg on sticking it out and the right effort of beginning again.

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October 19th, 2015

On finding herself amidst a buzzing group of Pope Francis’s admirers, Sharon Salzberg marvels at their elation at simply being in his presence — and reflects on what they can teach us about being open to receiving spiritual goodness.

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October 12th, 2015

What is the opposite of dukkha? Total rightness? Sharon Salzberg on the contorted postures we hold and the pain that arises out of the ungovernable nature of events in our lives.

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October 5th, 2015

When asked about love, people frequently use the word “need.” Sharon Salzberg analyzes this intermingling and why we should find a way to disentangle them to better understanding of real need, and real love.

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September 28th, 2015

If kindness, especially towards ourselves, is not our habit, where will it come from? Sharon Salzberg tells of her first encounter with lovingkindness and how we use can this practice to look upon ourselves differently — and with those we most want to ignore.

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September 21st, 2015

Sometimes we lose sight of the the beauty and connectedness of all things. Missing her shot of a Santa Fe rainbow, Sharon Salzberg invites us to find the beauty of paradox and the changing role of presence and impermanence in all things.

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September 14th, 2015

As life fleets by, we can get caught up in worrying about what may eventually happen. Through a story of receiving her first senior discount, Sharon Salzberg teaches us to exercise our “letting-go muscle” to be with what is.

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August 31st, 2015

Terms such as Jubu and Nones may be inadequate labels to describe a person’s faith journey. Sharon Salzberg with a reminder that what you call yourself may not be as important as how you live.

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August 24th, 2015

It’s not easy to genuinely know who we are. The stories others tell about us and the labels society heaps upon us only add to that confusion. But, when we disentangle ourselves from these narratives, we may choose courage over fear and take new risks.

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August 17th, 2015

Forgiveness is not easily granted. But, summoning the deepest compassion for ourselves and others may allow both parties to move on without bitterness. Through the bittersweet story of her friend, Sharon Salzberg imparts a lesson about the shifting course of relationships and a path to peace.

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August 10th, 2015

Change is undeniable. Yet, we expend an immense amount of time and energy trying to alter this basic principle with rigid categorizations. This essay reminds us to embrace the dynamism before us.

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August 3rd, 2015

So often we dwell on our mistakes. Sharon Salzberg helps us step away from this routine and walk a different terrain — with the practice of lovingkindness that develops a flexibility of looking at our own lives.

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July 27th, 2015

In our utilitarian age, meditation is often discussed as a means to increase focus, productivity, and cognition but what about meditation as an engine for kindness? Sharon Salzberg explores the power of compassion and kindness to meet with abundance the suffering of the stranger.

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